Big city road technology is hitting Wichita, giving local law enforcement more eyes on the road. Transportation officials are moving forward with a multi-million dollar plan to improve traffic flow. Phase one of the I-T-S, or Intelligent Transportation System, is now underway.
Big Brother up above is looking down on us now, but it's not to eavesdrop into our lives. Cameras are now installed in six locations along Wichita highways to help emergency officials deal with traffic tie ups in a better fashion.
City leaders approved millions of dollars in funding for the I-T-S system in 2008. Now the project is forging ahead. You may have already noticed the cameras installed at Wichita's major highway interchanges.
"It's very expensive to add capacity out on a highway, whether that's adding a lane or adding a whole new highway," said KDOT Spokesman Tom Hein. "So this is a technique that we can use to at least buy some time to fight some of that congestion that we have now and also be able to allow more traffic to travel in a more efficient way."
In the near future, emergency dispatchers will be able to pull up any one of the cameras in order to be able to look at how traffic should be diverted during accidents. Those dispatchers will also be able to tell officers and rescue workers how to get to scenes faster while avoiding congestion.
"Eventually, we'll have a website so people can actually go and look at the camera views themselves," Hein said. "They can look at messages that are up on the signs. They can check a map to see how well traffic is moving. Those traffic sensors will tell us how fast traffic is moving and how many lanes are occupied."
By fall, the state will go out for bids for a more permanent system to complete phase one of the project. Then the project will begin to start staffing a full time traffic management center in Sedgwick County's emergency communication building.
"We're in the beginning stages of getting our computer software in the traffic management center working and learning how to talk to those pieces of equipment that are out there for us," Hein explains. "How to gather data from them... Eventually we'll be able to share that information with the public."
Within the next year, officials hope to have 28 cameras installed, plus a full time monitoring center so dispatchers can begin using the new technology.